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Jan 22

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January 22: Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon (1561)

Francis Bacon

It was on this date, January 22, 1561, that English science essayist Francis Bacon was born in London, a contemporary of William Shakespeare in Elizabethan England. His father died when Bacon was 18, but he nevertheless read the law and got himself elected to the House of Commons at age 23. Elizabeth did not favor him, but after 1603 James I did. Bacon became Baron Verulam, Viscount St. Albans and Lord Chancellor of England.

Bacon professed religious orthodoxy in public, and from the line clerics love to quote —

A little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth men’s minds about to religion. (Essays, “Of Atheism”)

— he would seem so. But in the very next essay, Of Superstition, Bacon shows that Atheism is socially superior to superstition:

Atheism leaves a man to sense, to philosophy, to natural piety, to laws, to reputation; … but superstition dismounts all these, and erecteth an absolute monarchy, in the minds of men. Therefore atheism did never perturb states; … (Essays, “Of Superstition”)

Bacon was a promoter of scientific inquiry. This can be seen in his Novum Organon (1620), De Augmentis Scientarum (1623) and New Atlantis (1627). To his dying day, which was at age 65 on 9 April 1626, Bacon believed science, not religion, was the salvation of the human race. It was Francis Bacon who said, “The more contrary to reason the divine mystery, so much the more must it be believed for the glory of God.”*

* Rufus K. Noyes, Views of Religion, 1906.

NB: Bacon’s Essays (1625) can be read at this link (or in the original Latin at this link); his Novum Organon and New Atlantis through this link.

Originally published January 2004.

About the author

Ronald Bruce Meyer

Freethought Almanac was created by Ronald Bruce Meyer, in collaboration with freethoughtradio.com, in March 2003. What started with a brief notice on the birthday of Albert Einstein, grew into almost 250,000 words on not only biography but history, philosophy, theology and politics — one day at a time. Freethought Almanac looks at these daily subjects from a godless point of view, that is, a point of view that is based not on fantasies, delusions or wishful thinking, but a view that is evidence-based.

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